Several years ago, I went to work for a financial planning firm, coordinating seminars and classes for clients and prospects. A couple of promotions later, I was operations manager of the firm, reporting only to the CEO. The salary was well above the norm for the area, the benefits were good and I had a fairly prestigious title. Conventional business wisdom says that I should have been satisfied and happy.

For the first (and only) time in my life I started experiencing migraines. I went to work—and I pushed hard while I was there—but I was so happy to go home at the end of every day, and I woke up dreading work the next morning.

As a military spouse, my time there was limited, and we moved overseas, but, three years later, we were back in town, and I ran into my old boss at the store one day. He asked me to come back—for more money, of course—but I politely declined. I had learned a valuable lesson in how important it is to not wake up in the morning dreading your day.

Last week, I was on the phone with a colleague, and she asked me how things were going, as well as if I had any positives or negatives to report. I told her, “Kyler, I’m just having fun.

This doesn’t mean I’m not working, or I’m slacking off. Trust me—I’m 100 percent spent when I shut down my computer at night… But I’ve found that there’s a sweet spot where you can accomplish what needs to be done and still enjoy your time.

This may be the first time in my career that I feel like I’m in that sweet spot.

MainSpring principles

Shared vision

“Inspire a Shared Vision” is actually one of the concepts taught in The Leadership Challenge developed by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner. I’ve learned about it, and I knew how valuable it could be, but I think it’s one of those things that you don’t “get” until you’ve seen it.

It’s one thing to go to work every day and know your job duties and carry them out to the best of your ability. BUT, it’s entirely different to go into work knowing what your company’s values are, knowing your place in that framework and knowing that your goal is to apply those values to your daily work.

MainSpring’s core values can be defined using five simple keywords:

  • Connect. Make every interaction count, whether it’s with a client, partner, or colleague
  • Own. Own a problem from start to finish
  • Innovate. Always think of a better way
  • Expedite. Time matters. Attack everything with a today, not tomorrow, attitude.
  • Succeed. Winning is contagious. Find a win-win.

I keep these keywords on a sticky note taped to my monitor. They help guide my work (and my attitude) throughout the day.

Knowing how my personal values align with my firm’s values and goals keeps me focused and makes me feel connected to the team as a whole.

Kudos

To really drive home the importance of the core values, each month the managers recognize staff members who have personified what MainSpring stands for. It’s a regular agenda item at the monthly managers’ meeting, and each month an email goes out firm-wide, giving kudos to those employees for their work and recognizing how it relates to our core values.

It’s nice to be recognized, but it’s also nice to see how each individual interacts as part of the mission of the entire firm.

Attitude.

A manager from one of our partners recently asked me to collaborate with him on an employee recognition program. He needed a way to make sure that people felt valued, but let me know up front that there wasn’t a huge checkbook to work with. I started off telling him about the monthly kudos from the managers, but then I thought back to our latest quarterly meeting…

I turned to him and said, “I just want you to watch this video” …and then I showed him pieces of what it’s like to be a MainSpringer.

We’re geographically dispersed, but all employees are still included in the quarterly meetings; they’re just held online now. There’s the usual updates on the business side of things, as well as information about what’s coming up next quarter… But then, there’s the Attitude. Awards

In his book, The 360-Degree Leader, John Maxwell writes:

There is no higher compliment than acknowledgment and appreciation from someone

 whose circumstances, position, or experience is similar to yours.

It’s true—MainSpring encourages employees to recognize the good in their colleagues and acknowledge them for it. A couple of weeks before the quarterly meeting, a reminder goes out to submit nominations for the MainSpring Attitude. Awards; this gives everyone the chance to really think about how their colleagues have shown excellence in the last quarter and to express their appreciation to one another.

It runs against the grain of self-promotion and the need to be the top performer, but there’s something really special about employees recognizing each other for hard work. It’s the connection piece that makes MainSpring different.

Connection

Because MainSpring employees are spread across the country (and across the globe), it takes a consistent effort to ensure that employees feel connected to the firm. The payoff of that effort is that our people also feel connected to each other.

…And when that happens, situations like these follow:

  • Earlier this year, one of our employees had a family emergency. MainSpringers from offices all over the country, even those who had never met in-person, immediately answered the call to help support him.
  • MainSpringers recently contributed 32 pounds of supplies and treats to support their deployed colleagues throughout the summer.
  • Our CEO and our president both put on party hats and personally name and wish their employees a happy birthday on each virtual quarterly meeting.

It’s that connection that makes MainSpring different—a connection that motivates employees to give their best, day-in and day-out. That connection is what makes us all succeed.

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